Messi’s Arrival Boosts Apple TV+ and MLS Streaming Subscriptions

In the wake of soccer superstar Lionel Messi’s highly anticipated North American debut with Inter Miami in July, both Apple TV+ and Major League Soccer’s (MLS) streaming platforms witnessed a surge in U.S. subscriptions.

On July 21, the day Messi made his debut with Inter Miami, the MLS Season Pass saw a meteoric rise in new U.S. subscribers, with over 110,000 sign-ups, up from just 6,143 the day before. This surge even surpassed the numbers from the opening day of the season and the day MLS Season Pass was first introduced, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Apple, which owns the exclusive rights to broadcast MLS games and distribute MLS Season Pass, also experienced a significant increase in Apple TV+ subscriptions during July. This surge marked its most robust month for new U.S. subscribers in the year. However, international subscriptions, which could likely include many from Messi’s home country, Argentina, were not reflected in the reported data.

The MLS-Apple partnership seems to be proving fruitful, as demonstrated by the role Messi’s arrival played in boosting the streaming numbers. “Sports are definitely star-driven but that has never before translated into an enormous subscriber bump,” said Jonathan Carson, chief executive of Antenna, the analytics firm that provided the subscription data.

In a recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the positive impact Messi’s move to Inter Miami had on their subscription figures, suggesting they had surpassed their own expectations.

This subscriber growth suggests that Apple’s strategy of securing exclusive rights and distribution partnerships with sports leagues can have a ripple effect on streaming platforms. Live sports are a significant driver for streaming services, with tech companies like Apple, Google, and Warner Bros. Discovery still navigating the optimal pricing strategy for consumers.

Last year, Apple inked a deal worth at least $2.5 billion with MLS, gaining the exclusive rights to stream all MLS matches globally. They offer the MLS Season Pass at different pricing points for Apple TV+ subscribers and non-subscribers.

The recent data indicates that almost 50% of those who opted for the MLS Season Pass between February and July were already Apple TV+ subscribers. Moreover, 15% of those who took the MLS Season Pass in that period also added Apple TV+ to their streaming subscriptions.

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